Justice of the peace returns to the ballot

12/30/2013 6:20 PM

12/30/2013 6:21 PM

Longtime Justice of the Peace Jacquelyn Wright is back on the ballot for the March Republican primary after being allowed to submit additional signatures for petitions submitted when filing for office.

Wright and Tarrant County GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Hall reached an out-of-court agreement late last week after Wright sued Hall, who initially told Wright that she was not eligible because she lacked the required number of valid signatures to be allowed on the March 4 ballot.

Hall initially determined that Wright had 242 valid signatures, but the Texas election code requires at least 250 signatures to be on the ballot in a justice of the peace race in a large county.

Wright has served as the Precinct 4 justice of the peace since 1991.

Steve Maxwell, an attorney representing Wright, said nine signatures were added, bringing the total to 251 valid signatures, enough to remain on the ballot.

“There was a clerical problem with some of the petitions that were submitted that was easily corrected. Judge Wright missed it and so did the Republican Party chair,” he said.

Maxwell said some of the pages in Wright’s petitions did not say “Republican Party primary” at the top.

“It is an interesting clerical error. On one hand, it is Wright’s responsibility. On the other hand, people are signing knowing they are supporting Wright,” he said.

Asked about the agreement, Hall referred questions to the county GOP’s attorney Kevin Carey, who could not be reached for comment Monday.

In a Dec. 27 order outlining the settlement, state District Judge R.H. Wallace wrote that Wright was not informed that her ballot application was deficient until after the filing deadline. Wright was ordered to submit a minimum of eight signatures, and Hall was ordered to prepare a list of candidates including Wright.

Vickie Phillips, who is challenging Wright in the Precinct 4 race, said that after she filed on Nov. 14, Wright “pulled” her petition signatures the next day.

Phillips, a real estate agent who is running for the first time, said she submitted 367 signatures and 268 were valid.

“It’s not that we’re picking on Judge Wright; she threw the first punch,” Phillips said.

Phillips said that on 38 pages of Wright’s petitions, March 2014 was written at the top instead of Republican Party.

Phillips said she intends to run a “fair” race and to go forward with her campaign.

Wright said that it is common to pull opponents’ petition signatures in judicial races. “Mrs. Phillips did everything the right way. I raised no questions over her signatures,” Wright said.

“I think the settlement pretty much speaks for itself. They [the Republican Party] acknowledged that my name should have been on the ballot,” she said.

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